Simple enough task, right? I don't usually go out of my way to prevent character death, so instigating it should be a walk in the park. But the other Druid had other plans.
Theme of the night was spiders. First combat was protecting a farm from four giant spiders. I rolled a record number of natural 1s during that battle. The mission would have gone off without a hitch except that one of the Rangers cast Fog Cloud at the beginning of the battle, making it impossible for the other Ranger to shoot anything and only helping the spiders murder a cow before the party could do anything about it. So he was promplty kicked out of the party before they went on to track the spiders back to their lair.
I had planned the session for four players and now had three, so already the difficulty should have shot up. We did some exploration mode and they ran into wandering monsters. The other two players excelled at a sneak check, but Welrith, a bear, hit something around 7. So when a pack of mountain lions (derived from the great cat stats), they only saw a lone bear and figured the three of them could overpower it and feast on delicious bear meat.
Now, considering that a party of four 3rd level adventurers is rated for a tough encounter worth 480 XP, and a group of three great cats is worth 510 XP, and there were only three party members left to fight them, the difficulty by the books should have been off the charts. That doesn't count for much when I can't roll a 10 to save my life. Nevertheless, Welrith the Bear was brought to negatives and would have fallen unconscious after his next turn, but the aforementioned other Druid got her turn first and threw out a Cure Wounds as a swift action, at range, then shot at the enemies, as if the spell that miraculously saved Welrith's life was the simplest matter in the world to her. The remaining Ranger followed suit with another Cure Wounds and Welrith was going strong again. So that's how three 3rd level adventurers dispatched three 4th level monsters with little effort.
They reached their destination, a web-covered cave, and decided to send the bear in to lure the spiders out. Fortunately, he failed a saving throw and got caught in a web. Several giant spiders descended upon him to attack relentlessly, with advantage because he was restrained. I started doing some serious damage. I even scored a critical. He failed a few of the CON saves against the poison, but both times I only rolled three poison damage, far below average.
The party could have helped, but an aranea was soon upon them. That pesky Ranger was trapped in a web the aranea shot and took three or four rounds to make the DC 12 STR check to escape. I gave the aranea the spellcasting option. It hit each party member with a magic missile, hit the helpless Ranger with a shocking grasp, and cast sleep, which did absolutely nothing because all of the targets were elves at the time.
Meanwhile, the spiders bit Welrith again and again. He dropped below zero, and used his action to escape the web before falling unconscious and reverting to a wood-elf. He was three hit points away from death, was prone, had an armor class of 13, and I had one spider left before the healbots could act. I rolled a 12, with advantage. I was one single die number away from finally killing Welrith the Invincible.
The others had run out of spells, so it was time for Cure Minor Wounds, and Welrith was back up again. He then entered combat as a wood-elf for the first time, entangled the remaining spiders and blasted the aranea with his thunderwave. Between the three of them they wrapped up the encounter, leaving Welrith with one HP.
I still had a shot, though. Earlier in the game, the party had acquired a potion of poison, disguised as a potion of healing. So when the Ranger handed Welrith an innocent-looking bottle of blue potion, Welrith was back in the bonds of death. 3d6 damage from 1 HP certainly had the potential to end his life, and it would happen every round until he made two successful saves. But of course every round the other Druid would use Cure Minor Wounds and completely negate the effect. Still, I'd have a shot of rolling high enough as long as he didn't make those Con saves. Two natural 20s.
This guy should get a statue. He should probably be king of the woods. He should be named archdruid of both circles.
That was all I had. I did everything short of having enemies attack him when it made no tactical sense. The aranea could have killed him, but attacking an unconscious foe when two conscious ones were around just wouldn't happen. The mindless spiders could do that, but not the aranea. So it could not be done. Welrith the Meek could not die.
So basically what we learned from this session is that:
- Cure Wounds is way overpowered. Being a swift action AND a ranged spell AND automatically raising the target to 1 before healing is kind of absurd. It makes magical healing trivial.
- Cure Minor Wounds is too good, for also being a swift action at range and automatically bringing the target conscious. It should stabilize a dying creature, not wake them up.
- The encounter building guidelines are still off since my attempt at a near-impossible encounter was easier than an average one for them.
So will there be an option in the game for people who don't want healing to be completely trivial? For people who actually want a challenge out of D&D? Because death shouldn't be cheap, it shouldn't be too easy to die, but if you can't kill a player by any means with a concentrated effort, I think the game is too easy.